And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said to the sick of the palsy…
After the series of miracles of healing recorded in the previous chapter, the evangelist passes to the more directly spiritual work of Christ, and the transition is marked by an incident which combines both kinds of ministry.
I. THE WORLD'S FIRST NEED IS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. The sufferer was in a pitiably helpless condition - so helpless that he had to be carried to Christ. Yet the Saviour saw that his bodily weakness was of secondary importance compared to the spiritual paralysis of sin that benumbed his soul. His friends thought only of the physical trouble; but the keen eye of the Physician of souls penetrated through the superficial symptoms to the more terrible spiritual disease beneath. It would seem that the man himself felt this most acutely, and that Jesus, who could read hearts at a glance, perceived his deep yearning for forgiveness, and answered his unexpressed desire. It may be that his present condition was the result of some form of intemperance, was the natural punishment of his sins. But if this was not the case, there was, and there always is, a general connection between sin and suffering. However this may be, we all need to be delivered from our sins more than we need to be cured of any bodily infirmity. He alone who can save from sin is man's real Saviour.
II. CHRIST HAS DIVINE AUTHORITY TO FORGIVE SIN. He does not pray for the man's forgiveness. He grants the pardon himself. His action startled and alarmed the religious people in the assembly. Was not Jesus claiming a Divine prerogative? Now, one of their premises was perfectly sound. Only God has a right to forgive sin, and if a mere man claims to pronounce absolution in more than a general declaration of the gospel, i.e. as a direct act of forgiveness, he is guilty of blasphemy. We cannot both accept the gospel narrative and reject the Divinity of Christ without leaving the character of our Lord under suspicion of the gravest charges. There is no middle course here. A mild Unitarianism that believes in the Gospels and honours Jesus is most illogical. But knowing the character of Christ to be true and pure, must we not take his calm claim to forgive sins as an evidence of his Divinity?
III. CHRIST'S MISSION ON EARTH BRINGS THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS. This is a new note in religion. Forgiveness was known in the Old Testament (e.g. Psalm 103:3). But Jesus brings it with a fresh graciousness, with a new fulness and directness.
1. By his incarnation. It was as the "Son of man" that Jesus opened up the wealth of Divine forgiveness to us. The people marvelled at the power that had been granted "unto men."
(1) In his human life Jesus shows us the sympathy of God.
(2) He also reveals true purity, and so strikes a deep note of penitence, and brings us into the spirit that is capable of receiving pardon.
2. Through his atonement. This was not seen at first. It was enough to perceive the great fact - that Jesus brought forgiveness. But at the end of his life our Lord showed that his power to do this was confirmed by his death; that his blood was "shed for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). Thus by the sacrifice of himself he reconciles us to God, and reconciliation is the very essence of forgiveness.
3. In his present power. He showed one phase of his power in healing the bodily disease of the sufferer. This was a sign of the healing power that cures spiritual evil. He is the present, living Saviour, who both heals and pardons by his word of grace. - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.